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Twas Grace That Taught My Heart To Fear

Tides of God

By Ted Reynolds 

13 Dec, 2022

Terry Carr's Third Ace Science Fiction Specials


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Ted Reynold’s Tides of God is a science fiction combat-theology novel. Reynold’s debut novel, it is to date his sole work at novel length (at least so far as I am aware). Tides of God was the tenth novel featured in the Third Ace Specials and the first of those to appear after Damon Knight took over editorial duties following Terry Carr’s death in 1987.

3228: freed of the tyranny of irrational religion, the Earth enjoys an era of rationality, free love, and general prosperity. The hard work of restoring damage done to the Earth during the post-21st century dark age is under way.

Thanks to their alien Krocerian trading partners, humanity has its first relativistic starship, Hound of Heaven. There is, however, a price to be paid. Hound of Heavens first voyage will be to intercept and kill God.

Among the many revelations shared with humans by the Krocs, an explanation for the thousand-year cycle of rationality and deranged religiosity that has plagued both humanity and the Krocs. A powerful alien entity — God for short — cruises through our galactic neighborhood, bombarding the worlds within range with irresistible, irrational religious messages. The mechanism by which it does this is unknown but the effect is clear: centuries of war and misery. What is also known: God’s path through the Milky Way will soon bring it back to our neighborhood.

The Krocs are reasonably certain the weapons with which the Hound of Heavenis armed will be sufficient to kill God. Being both rational and prudent, the Krocs prefer not to test this hypothesis in person. Instead, volunteers from Earth will be permitted to demonstrate how correct (or horribly wrong) the Krocs are in this matter.

While there is a certain, limited, diversity in perspectives amongst the humans of 3228, almost all humans1 are rational entities. The consequences of God’s return would be calamitous. There is no shortage of volunteers to head into interstellar space to put an end to the divine menace.

There is just one tiny flaw in the plan. God can induce faith-based madness at a distance of several light-years. What will happen to the crew of Hound of Heaven when it is in close proximity to God?

Nothing good.


The Science Fiction Encyclopedia says that Tides of God was the last of the Terry Carr Ace Specials.” I don’t know whether SFE means the series as a whole or that subset edited by Carr but the first of those is clearly incorrect — there were two more novels in the series — and the second is not supported by the Edited by Damon Knight” on the cover. The SFE entry also seems to suggest the novel is set in the 21st century, which is incorrect.

I don’t know if this counts as a spoiler but on the whole, the novel’s view of religion seems to incline to: religion is inherently bad and the enemy of all that is worthwhile in human (and presumably Kroc) nature.

Also, probably not a spoiler: rationality and libertarianism appear to map closely onto each other in this novel.

Religion in this novel seems to be entirely Christian in nature, judging by the messages with which God bombards Hound of Heaven. I’d be tempted to blame the simpler era in which the novel was written but the novel specifically mentions Han China as one of God’s victims. It’s not that the author is unaware that there’s a world beyond the US and Europe. It just doesn’t figure into Hound of Heavens experiences.

A curious coincidence: although the novels otherwise have little in common, The Tides of God isn’t the only libertarian novel about killing God to appear in the late 1980s. Victor Koman’s Prometheus-award-winner The Jehovah Contract appeared in 1987. I guess it was steam engine time for libertarian God-killing novels. Can I find three more examples for Tor? Would they publish an essay on the subject if I did?

I myself am an entirely rational non-believer whose views of the net effect of religion on civilization are not entirely positive. Logic suggests I should have been a nearly ideal audience for the novel. Alas! Even leaving aside the obligatory creepy sex stuff characteristic of the era, this is at best a curate’s egg. The characters are so uncompelling I couldn’t be bothered to name any of them and the plot kind of falls apart the moment one asks, why would the Krocs send a crewedship to intercept God when uncrewed missiles are not known for crises of faith2?”

One point to the author: the second question a reader might ask (after why used a crewed ship?”) is given the scale of the Milky Way and the light-speed limit, how is it God manages to visit us as frequently as once every thousand years?” There is in fact a perfectly reasonable answer to that question, which I will not spoil.

Tides of God is out of print3.

1: Aside from a few pitiful remnants of religious communities.

2: Generally speaking. There have been exceptions. There is no God but God and Skashskash is his Prophet.

3: Ten books into a twelve-book series is either a bit late to suddenly introduce a chart tracking certain aspects of the series or two books too early. Nevertheless, the running count for how many of the Third Ace Specials novels are still in print is as follows. Note that this only covers the books I have reviewed and that it does not cover the books I have not reviewed.



In Print?

Author’s Sole Novel

The Wild Shore

Kim Stanley Robinson



Green Eyes

Lucius Shepard




William Gibson




Carter Scholz and Glenn Harcourt



Them Bones

Howard Waldrop



In the Drift

Michael Swanwick



The Hercules Text

Jack McDevitt



The Net

Loren J. MacGregor




Richard Kadrey



The Tides of God

Ted Reynolds



4: However, Waldrop’s only other novel preceded Them Bones by more than a decade.